Chinese health authorities are urging people in the city of Wuhan to avoid crowds and public gatherings after warning that a new viral illness infecting hundreds of people in the country and causing at least 17 deaths could spread further. 

State-run CGTN reported there are at least 544 cases confirmed in China. 

China's Hubei province announced Wednesday that the death toll from the new virus has risen to 17. All of the deaths have been in Hubei province, where the first cases were reported last month. 

The news comes one day after the first U.S. case of coronavirus originating from China was reported in a man in Washington state, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention. 

The illness comes from a new coronavirus that experts say may be spread through the respiratory tract and may be mutating. 

The outbreak initially was connected to a seafood market in the central city of Wuhan, but human-to-human transmission could make the virus spread more quickly and widely. News of the illness spreading among people came as China reported a sharp uptick in cases.

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An expert meeting convened by the World Health Organization on Wednesday will determine whether to declare the outbreak a global health crisis.  

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In a Tuesday call held by the CDC, checkpoints were announced a airports in the U.S., a full transcript of that call was released by the agency afterwards. 

The CDC staff set up checkpoints at San Francisco International Airport, new York (JFK), and Los Angeles (LAX) airports and has screened more than 1,200 passengers traveling through San Francisco International Airport. Additional checkpoints will be added at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta and O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. 

Hong Kong China Outbreak coronavirus masks AP
Passengers wear masks to prevent an outbreak of a new coronavirus in a subway station, in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020.
AP

Officials said that those who fly into the U.S. from Wuhan will be funneled through one of the five airports that have the screenings for coronavirus.